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MGM/UA takes ‘Stargate’ pic

The $ 55 million Canal Plus film “Stargate” has finally found a U.S. orbit: MGM/UA has just closed a domestic and Canadian distrib deal for the sci-fi extravaganza.

The pact comes after several tense months in which Canal Plus reps and Carolco chairman Mario Kassar sought distribution for a film viewed by many as a dicey gamble.

With a budget climbing from $ 42 million to around $ 55 million, the Carolco-partnered”Stargate” was shot without a stateside distrib. With most major studios facing tight release schedules in the summer that is fast approaching, “Stargate” was in danger of being lost in space. MGM/UA was pegged as “Stargate’s” most likely home, since the twin studios’ summer release skeds have more room than the other majors — and since MGM/UA owner Credit Lyonnais is also tight with Canal Plus.

Kassar’s team has recently shown a short reel with temp sound and F/X to the majors.

Big ticket

Essentially a pricey indie pic, “Stargate” is a major departure in a market full of hedges and tight budgets: Co-scripted and helmed by Roland Emmerich (“Universal Soldier”), the film’s narrative races from 8000 B.C. to the present and then on to a future galaxy.

Actor Kurt Russell was paid $ 7 million — more than twice his customary rate at the time — to star as an archaeology professor whose search for the meaning of an ancient text sends him on an interplanetary, time-leaping trek to save the Earth from annihilation.

‘Cleopatra’ topped

Kassar has bragged that “Stargate” has the biggest sets since Cecil B. DeMille’s 1934 epic “Cleopatra.” The pic also employed more than 16,000 extras and took over the egg-shaped dome in Long Beach recently vacated by Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose megaplane.

Deal the key

Sources close to the production say Kassar has already made considerable pre-sales deals in several overseas territories, but that the “Stargate” launch would have been unsuccessful without the MGM/UA deal.

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